Ovarian cancer: Who’s most at risk?

From age to lifestyle, what are the biggest risk factors when it comes to ovarian cancer?

ovarian cancer risk

by Kayleigh Dray |
Published on

Katherine Taylor, Chief Executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, explained that ovarian cancer is a fairly rare condition and woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer over her lifetime is just one in 52.

There are, though, factors that can increase a women’s risk of developing ovarian cancer.

She explains: “The two most important risk factors for ovarian cancer are age and family history.

“More than 80% of cases occur in women who are aged 50 or over. Around 15% of cases occur in women who have a family history of cancer.

“This increase in risk is most often due to the inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.”

How do BRCA gene mutations affect our risk of developing ovarian cancer?

BRCA gene mutations are associated with both breast and ovarian cancer.

Those who have a BRCA gene mutation have a 35-60% chance of developing ovarian cancer and an 80% chance of developing breast cancer.

Katherine Taylor says: “Almost one in five (17%) women with ovarian cancer carries a BRCA gene mutation (a la Angelina Jolie) We all have BRCA genes but the likelihood of developing ovarian cancer if you have a mutation in one of these genes increases from one in 52, to one in two.

“Knowing your BRCA status can be beneficial whether you have ovarian cancer or not. Those that do can make more informed treatment decisions and have the opportunity to pass information on to at risk family members.

“Knowing you’re at risk, even if you don’t have cancer, gives you the option to take preventative measures.”

Other factors that may slightly increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer include:

  • obesity

  • not having children

  • endometriosis

  • use of HRT

How can I reduce my risk of developing ovarian cancer?

A women’s risk decreases with each pregnancy she has, and breastfeeding and taking the contraceptive pill lowers risk too.

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